How Many Cups Of Water?

[The original title to this post was: “A Heavenly Reward”]

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:42

Today I have four stories to narrate and they are all related. They all point to the same moral.

The first story involves the biggest mansion (actually, the only one-storied mansion) in my town.

It belongs to the bishop of the largest Pentecostal denomination in our region.

End of story.

The second story is about another bishop of that same denomination who resides in a neighboring district. His mansion, which happens to be the biggest personally-owned building in his town, is currently under construction. But this story stretches out a bit. The bishop also owns two vehicles, both 6-cylinder SUVs. Actually, one is a Range Rover.

This minister’s church, however, is heavily tasked to contribute to the construction of his big mansion. The church also takes care of the running of the bishop’s two cars. Every parishioner has been allocated a large portion of money to contribute, and the deacons have been instructed to enforce it.

A friend of mine who used to worship in this minister’s church once asked him why he needed to build such a big house. The man replied, “Our God is a big God. We should be able to enjoy the big life because all things belong to God.”

When he asked him why he had to task God’s people to pay for his house instead of receiving directly from God, the minister replied, “God has put them there to serve me. That is how they will receive their reward, while I receive mine by preaching to them.”

At about the same time, a friend of mine from the U.S. sent me a video clip of a church that had rioted against the pastor during a church service because they were asked to tithe 1,000 U.S. dollars each. (The tithe goes directly to the pastor.)

Those who could not afford the 1,000 dollars were coolly asked to give not less than 300 dollars.

And yet this pastor drives a Rolls Royce, he owns a number of mansions, and he has satellite churches from which he “reaps” tons of cash every Sunday. But the community that he “serves” is dirt poor and there are families who cannot afford a decent meal.

Finally, the “sheep” had woken up to the fact that they were being pimped and they decided to do something about it.

The Bible does not say we pay back evil for evil, nor that we should riot in church. But these people did not know any better, so they rioted.

The last story is about our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus talked about a reward. He did not say that we would receive a reward by building a mansion for ourselves or by driving the most expensive cars in His name. Jesus, however, said that we would be rewarded by giving a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (children).

Imagine that. Not even warmed water, but cold. A cup of cold water is worth nothing. And yet, the littlest thing we could do for God’s Kingdom and for His children will get us an eternal reward in heaven.

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

We can serve God’s people with the littlest thing we have and expect a reward; or we can serve ourselves by pampering our flesh, for which the Lord made no promise.

I am trying to calculate how many cups of water this American preacher could get from selling his Rolls Royce. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, each cup of water that this man would give to a saint has a reward in heaven. Now do your maths and tell me what kind of reward this preacher would have in heaven. But he is wasting it away on self.

Jesus said,

“19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mat. 6:19-20)

Self (the love for this world) is the saint’s biggest enemy. That is why God gives us the revelation of the cross, to the end that we might crucify the flesh and move on and serve God in the Spirit, where there is a reward. The revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” gives us a spiritual vision and we lose sight of the pleasures and glories of this world.

[“But we preach Christ crucified… Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. 1:23-24]

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A Grand Passing

Late in the evening of Saturday 16th, I received news that my sister-in-law, my younger brother’s wife, had passed on and gone to be with the Lord. Death has a power that defies normalcy, and I am still reeling at the news. Joyce was more than a sister-in-law to me; she was just as one of my sisters. Her face was pasted with a permanent smile, and I cannot imagine not seeing that again; nor her deep, infectious laughter. It is these two that I shall miss especially.

But the Bible is filled with spiritual comfort at every turn, and in 1 Thes. 4:13-14, the Apostle Paul gives us reason to rejoice even in death, for he writes, by the Word of the Lord:

“13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”

I am therefore filled with much comfort, even as the whys and the hows assail me. The most important thing is that she died in the Lord and that, if I also live with the Lord, I shall one day see her in the only place that matters – HEAVEN.

The passing away of a saint is, indeed, a grand passing.

[Joyce Paul]

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Making It

The wife of a pastor friend of mine died yesterday afternoon, right after church. She was a woman whom I knew intimately. Just last Friday I was with her and her husband at their house. As we sat she complained of a headache, and her husband brought her some painkillers. No one thought anything else about it until she fell down in her sitting room and died. She died instantly.

It was a poor family and she lived a poor life. She never knew the good life.

Today, at her vigil, all the men were sitted outside and the women inside, as is customary when there is not enough space inside the house. Everyone’s thoughts were on what caused her sudden death. But, as her husband was narrating the ordeal, he said something that made me realize that the really important question was not what had caused her death, but where she’d gone.

A week ago, her 14-year old son had been involved in an accident. He had been riding a borrowed bicycle when he was broadsided by a motorcycle as he was making a turn. It was a ghastly accident, but luckily he came out largely unscathed. Within four days he was out running again. But the near-miss had shaken his mother badly.

Her husband told us, “My wife’s last words were to my son. She called him over and said to him, ‘Do you realize what could have happened to you in that accident? You could have died instantly. You should not play with going to church. Tell me you will not be missing church again.’

“At which”, proceeded the pastor, “the boy said, ‘I promise, mother.’”

It was then that his mother let him go. Not long afterwards, she collapsed inexplicably and died instantly.

As the pastor was speaking, we were sitted outside, under a clear, blue sky. Just about then, I glanced up and espied an airliner making its way across the sky. It was travelling from the north to the south. It was very high up, probably 30 – 40,000 feet. It was so high that were it not for the jetstream, I might not have noticed it.

Something told me, “No, she is not on that plane. She has left the splendors of this world that she never knew. But she is somewhere”.

And I knew, even as I looked up, beyond the airliner, that she had made it. Yes, she was finally with the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought was too tremendous for me to comprehend. It still is, even as I write.

Joseph’s Patience – Part 1

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. Gen. 37:5

The Lord moved upon my heart this morning to write about Joseph – again! There are many, many things to learn from the account of Joseph’s life; but here we will dwell on just two.

The first is Joseph’s perseverance. Yes, Joseph persevered. By “persevered” I mean he never made a complaint concerning his sufferings. He never protested, grumbled, objected nor criticized. And the outcome of this attitude, as we see in Genesis 39:2:

“And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.”

And, in verse 29:

“But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”

Yes, the Bible states that, everywhere Joseph went, and in every situation that he passed through, the Lord was with him. But the reason the Lord was with Joseph was because Joseph persevered and never let any of those negative attitudes listed above enter into his heart.

It is not in vain that the Bible says in Proverbs 4:23:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

When we keep our hearts well, the Lord will be with us every step of the way. He will bless whatever we put our hands to. It is not just suffering that we must endure; but we must endure suffering with a good and patient heart. Most believers do not prosper in their spirits because they cannot endure “evil”.

[Joseph persevered and, as a result, he prospered]

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True Service To God

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. Is. 66:1-4

In a desperate bid to become like God, man goes to all kinds of lengths to avoid touching the ground. That is why we avoid the dust by riding in our cars. That is why, also, it is fashionable to fly in an airplane. Planes fly us far above the earth. (And, here’s a tip: in case you want to own your very own private jet to keep you constantly air-borne, you will need to come up with around 65 million dollars, U.S., according to the latest buzz I heard.)

Even when asleep we lie above the ground, on beds. It is only after we have died that we grudgingly allow ourselves to be laid down in the dust.

But all these efforts are futile, for the heart of the man who has not been born again by the Spirit of God is hopelessly rooted in the earth. Such an one is a child of Satan, the ruler of the darkness of this world, and his lusts are what he fulfills.

But God is holy, righteous and pure. He lives above the darkness of this world. If the earth is God’s footstool, it is evident that what occupies God is not what goes on beneath His feet but rather, what goes on above it. What engages God is not what occurs on the earth, but what takes place in heaven!

That does not mean that God does not care about us and the world around us. Rather, it means that God is Spirit and what concerns Him is the spiritual, not the worldly or material. He keeps the world by His power all right, but that does not mean He is pleased with the world.

There is only one thing that pleases God: a life lived in the Spirit. And what, pray, is a life lived in the Spirit?

People do all kinds of things for God in an attempt to impress Him, but God is the Creator of everything. There is nothing that we can surprise God with. You can build a complex temple of pure gold for God, but that cannot impress Him. All the gold in the world is His, and all the building designs in the world are His also.

When it comes to our religious posturing, we can prostrate ourselves all the way to the Arctic, but God would not be impressed with that either. We can also sing the most beautiful songs, and dance with all our strength like David did, but Jesus said that God can cause stones to sing out, too (Lk. 19:40). And we can deliver the most stirring sermons, but God does not expressly need us to do that; the Bible tells us that God once used a donkey to deliver one of the most moving sermons in the history of mankind … a sermon that saved someone’s life (read Numbers chapter 22).

There is absolutely nothing that we can do that is not born of God’s heart that can please God. On the contrary, the more we insist on doing for God things born outside of His heart, the more we vex God.

“He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol…”

God is not concerned with our religious affectations. But God is very concerned with a man or woman who trembles at His Word, for God’s Word is the only tool that can make us to do that which delights God. Trembling here does not mean we are to stand somewhere shaking. On the contrary, when we tremble at God’s Word, it means our spirits are quick to obey Him by leaving off sinning.

Who is the person who trembles at God’s Word, and who obeys God? Who is it that can leave off sinning? It is the person who denies themselves, carries their cross and follows Christ. This is the person who truly pleases God.

There are gospels today that have no idea of what God requires from us. Indeed, there are false gospels that have been engineered to remove the fear of God from men’s hearts. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says in 2 Corinthians 11:3:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Paul goes on to say in verse 4:

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

These false gospels set men’s sights on the material things of this world. They also trivialize God’s anointing and His power by treating these qualities like disposable commodities.

A brother once attended a big conference in a neighboring country that was being led by a powerful preacher. When he came back, he excitedly told us, “Y’know what? I fell under the anointing!”

There is nothing in such things to bring the fear of God into men’s hearts.

At any rate, we should be careful. The Bible says that both the devil and his servants are able to transform themselves into ministers of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). That is why we should be careful with all these emotional manifestations that have invaded the church.

But – praise the Lord! – there is one place where you can absolutely not go wrong with God: living the crucified life. Living the crucified life produces the character of God in us, which is the fruit of the Spirit; and the fruit of the Spirit is the one thing that God seeks for in us (Mat. 21:18-19). God’s Word in Galatians 5:22-23 tells us:

 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance”.

This is the kind of lifestyle that God is looking for in us, and it can only be found in a crucified life. The Bible sums it up by saying:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24)

[Below: A praise session. Here, God looks upon the heart]

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“… Up Where We Belong”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Eph. 1:3

Notice in the above portion of scripture how God’s Word looks only upwards! That’s so powerful. The writer of this epistle could have chosen to look downwards. He could have chosen to talk about all the earthly blessings that we have in Christ. But he chose to look up. He chose to consider the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. In his discourse he chose to ignore the physical and material blessings of this world.

God, our father, desires to take us up. That is where we belong as His children. He wants us to partake of His spiritual blessings and His spiritual Kingdom. That is our inheritance as His children. And yet, too many believers today have their sights set on the physical and material blessings of this world. Even when the Lord has begun “a good work” in us (Phil. 1:6) it is the most difficult thing for believers to appreciate the spiritual nature of our calling.

But our calling is spiritual. That is why the Bible says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”

It does not say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual and material blessings in Christ”. That would be true, of course, since God is the God of all blessings, both physical and spiritual. But the Bible in every place makes a distinction between the physical and the spiritual; between the temporal and the eternal. Whatever is temporal will one day pass away. You could not, for example, take your car with you to heaven, even if it was a blessing that was hand-delivered to you by God Himself. When you go to heaven, your beautiful car will be left to rust here on earth. But in heaven you will find love, a spiritual blessing. That is the stark contrast.

The church should therefore focus on God’s “spiritual blessings”. If the Bible can take the time and the effort and the space in its hallowed pages to include the word “spiritual”, I believe we should pay heed to what it is trying to tell us. It could even be a warning. Today you rarely hear the term “spiritual blessings” used in church. You just hear of “blessings”. Everything, the physical and the spiritual, is lumped together.

But if you read the entire Book of Ephesians and, indeed, every other book of the New Testament, you will not find much talk about physical or material blessings. The Bible, especially the New Testament, talks of many things, and nearly all of them have to do with the inner man of the spirit and the work of the cross that is needed to bring about a transformation in his character.

We must once again learn to hear from the Holy Spirit. For the world, riches comprise of material wealth. For the spiritual person, the Bible tells us what comprises true riches:

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

For the church the true riches are “Christ in you”!

Jesus comes to live in us when we accept Him by faith; and when through that same faith we become partakers of the death of Christ through an understanding of the cross, we become partakers of His resurrection life. The life of Christ in us means we can exhibit, right here on earth, the character of Christ. And this is the whole purpose of the gospel.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

These characteristics form the true spiritual blessings that the Bible talks about. Their formation in us is the top priority with God. It is the character that Christ had when He was here on earth, and it is the same character that we will find Him with in heaven. In other words, these are the things that last, for God never changes.

Many believers will be deceived by worldly-minded preachers and worldly-minded gospels. They will be led to prioritize the blessings of this world over the things that would mature their spirits and make them partakers of true “spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

But God wants us to move on to perfection in the Spirit (1 Col. 1:28).

The Challenge To Obey God

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Rom 8:13

The first man to die was Adam, and here scripture gives us the reason why he died. Adam died because he followed after his flesh rather than obeying God. This scripture also brings us to realize that what has always troubled the church then and now is the flesh. Much as we would love to blame the devil for the church’s woes, yet it is far much safer to stay with what the Bible says; and here the Bible states that the real enemy of God’s church is the flesh. If that is the case, therefore, there is no doubting the fact that every other gospel preached has missed the mark, except one – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ, as it was revealed to the Apostle Paul – “For the preaching of the cross… is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is the singular gospel that has power to deal death to the flesh, and to enable those who are called by God to inherit eternal life (Gal. 6:14).

To find ourselves even beginning to understand this revelation is an indescribable grace!

Now, before we go on, let us make sure that we understand perfectly clearly what the Bible means by the word flesh. The Bible itself gives us the meaning right here in Romans 8:13: the flesh, it says, are “the deeds of the body”. Again, the “body” mentioned here is not the physical flesh and blood body that we know of. Rather, it is the innermost part of man, his soul. In Bible language, the “body” is that unregenerate nature of man.

A list of the body’s “deeds” is written down in Galatians 5:19-21:

“19 … adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”

These are the things that the Bible refers to as the flesh. They are the things that we absolutely must put off from our hearts in order to enter heaven.  God has given us His Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

The Holy Spirit is more than sufficient for this task while, on the other hand, on our own we are completely useless. So what is our role in all this? Our responsibility is to humble our wills to the working of the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to deal with these “deeds” in our hearts. To carry a humble heart is the singular greatest responsibility that man has before God.

I find it interesting that many born-again believers think that they will enter heaven with their carnal ways just as long as they have done some things on the outside… fulfilling some church roles, or obeying some laws and regulations.  And yet, throughout scripture, we find that the singular condition for us to be ushered into God’s heavenly Kingdom is for us to put off the old man of the flesh and its lusts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are people who will counter that this “requirement” implies works rather than grace. But no. This requirement is not of works nor, indeed, can you do away with the flesh through works. There is no power that can defeat the works of the flesh, except one – the power of God, the Holy Spirit. But God has given us this same Holy Spirit to come live in us. The power of the Holy Spirit, which saved us in the first place, is even more capable of dealing with our sinful nature.

Living in sin or appeasing the flesh is therefore a denial of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life.

That is why the Bible insists that we must be transformed. In other words, the Bible reasons, seeing God has given us His Holy Spirit, there is no reason for a believer to not be transformed into the image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, for which very purpose God has given us His Holy Spirit!

The church wants to ride the sugar train of the flesh and also inherit God’s spiritual Kingdom? No way! And yet today, increasingly, Christians want it that way. They want to sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” and raise a racket in church while embracing the lusts and passions of the flesh. But God is more interested in us putting off the carnal nature in us than in our singing. God is more interested in a pure heart, for example. He is also interested in us living a morally pure and holy life. God is interested in a heart of mercy, and a heart that can easily forgive. There are many things that God is interested in, and they can only be found in us if we have crucified the flesh and allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.

Paul in Galatians provides us with a list of the things that please God in a man.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (5:22-23).

Such people – people who have crucified their flesh – are free! They are free from any laws. You cannot even tell such a person, “Obey God!” because he has already obeyed Him by putting off the works of the flesh. Praise God!!

Many believers have been taught spiritual warfare, to war against the devil. They boast in being able to confine the devil in the bottomless pit and many other places. But few know how to defeat the flesh. Incidentally, I haven’t read anywhere where it says that if you confine the devil to the bottomless pit you will go to heaven.

But the cross of Jesus Christ teaches us exactly what is needed to please God: it is the mortification of the flesh. Moreover, through the revelation of the cross, when it comes to the devil we learn that, once we have defeated the flesh, we have in effect defeated the devil (Eph. 6:10-18). He cannot touch us.

The Bible is an interesting Book because it does not use half-way words like “maybe” or “probably” or “just might”. But when the Bible says that we will die if we live according to the flesh, it means just that. When God told Adam he should not eat of the fruit that God had told him not to eat for he would die the minute he ate it, Adam thought God had said “just might”. But God had not said that. When therefore Adam ate that fruit, he died immediately.

How much more do you think we shall die spiritually if we fail to deal with our carnal natures? Much more so, I am sure. And yet believers walk about with this mindset of testing God. For that reason, many believers today are dead spiritually, and the Bible declares that some have even died physically as a direct result of choosing to walk in sin (1 Cor. 11:30-32).

That is why we must crucify the flesh. I believe that the first business of the church is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The power of the Holy Spirit is readily available to us, and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore Him. Even worse, of course, is that when the church fails to take the way of the cross, it fails to grow and become the bride that Christ is awaiting.

The church today appears larger-than-life, and yet it is all a façade. Before we boast of our mega-churches, we must crucify the flesh. God is not really bothered about the size of someone’s church.

Before we sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” we must crucify the flesh. I haven’t read anywhere in the New Testament where it says that I have to absolutely sing “Glory, hallelujah!”, but I certainly have read that I need to crucify the flesh if I hope to one day make it to heaven.

This is our challenge to obey God.